The Art & Memory Collection: Background

Over the last three years we have been commissioning fifty-five new lettered works on a memorial theme. These works bring together the traditional components of British memorial making, above all fine lettering, with the fresh interpretative vision of fifty-five different makers. The proposals ranged widely, from the traditional to the very contemporary.

They included works in stone, slate, wood and other materials in the form of standing stones, headstones, lettered steps, sculptures, a bird bath, words cut into chalk on a hill and a fountain.

The ability of such works to comfort, move and inspire the public, and the necessity for founding a permanent collection of Memorial Art, was borne out by the overwhelming response to our first exhibition, The Art of Remembering (Blickling Hall, Norfolk, 1998). Fifteen works from this first exhibition will be included in the permanent Art & Memory Collection. The Art & Memory exhibition was launched on 2 April 2009 – in the gardens and arboretum of West Dean College, West Sussex. After eight months the Collection was distributed between six major public sites around the British Isles: Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol, Blair Castle in Scotland; Canterbury Cathedral Memorial Garden; Winterbourne Botanic Garden in Birmingham; the Monnow Valley Arts Centre in Monmouthshire and Grimsthorpe Castle, Lincolnshire. The Collection will enable a wide audience to discover this rewarding but under-appreciated art form – to learn about good design and fine lettering, poetry and prose and the possibilities for commissioning individual memorials.

The purpose of the Art & Memory Collection is to show how beautiful and varied contemporary memorial art can be, with the emphasis on fine letter-carving – a much neglected art form.

Nowadays in the UK approximately one in three of us will commission some kind of memorial during our lifetime – works that will remain visible in public places for years to come; yet until now there has been no permanent national collection where people can seek inspiration from a wide range of commemorative works by contemporary artists trained in traditional lettering skills.  The Art & Memory Collection is designed to meet this need.

No machine can match the subtlety of the trained hand and eye in varying the width and depth of the cut, and in making the minute adjustments in spacing which bring an inscription to life.  The Art & Memory Collection will benefit all sections of the public, enabling people to learn more about the lettering arts, and discover the infinite possibilities for creating memorials of lasting beauty.

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